The generation of the Mechelse Hrvatica shows tremendous diversity with recognisable traits from the different countries that are part of the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project.
An ancient breed that appeared thousands of years ago in ancient Canaan land and Egypt. It is possibly the first breed in the world to be raised for food production. Recent archaeological research on piles of chicken bones discovered at the archaeological site of Tel Maresha points in that direction. The Baladi first occurred 2,300 years ago in Israel. “Baladi” is a Middle Eastern word that means “local” or “from the village.” There are Baladi everywhere in the Middle East: from Morocco to Syria.
The females are light gold/brown with penciled feathers. The hen resembles the gold-penciled Braekel, the Brown Leghorn, and the original Gallus Gallus. The males are multi-colored, and their breast feathers are proudly penciled. Also the rooster resembles the gold-penciled Braekel, the Brown Leghorn, and the original Gallus Gallus. However, their feather pattern and coloration can also be very different.
Baladi chickens were found in the Jewish community in Antwerp, Belgium, during the COVID-quarantine period.
Birthplace of the first chicks
Open Global Farm, Oudsbergen (BE)
This ‘crossbreeding’ was presented via Vanmechelen’s installation Crossquery in the Jerusalem Biennale. Central in the installation was a big cage with a couple of Baladi hens; the Mechelse Hrvatica – the 25th generation of the CCP – was presented via a portrait on the wall. An incubator with transparent eggs visualized the next generation in all transparency.
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Many Baladi birds suffer from inbreeding. Crossbreeding them is a way of improving their genetic diversity.
Vanmechelen's installation also got an extra layer of meaning from its location in this particular city. “For three millennia, Jerusalem has been a powder keg and a melting pot,” says Vanmechelen. “My installation shows a different way of cross-fertilisation. It shows that mixing and proximity are the best guarantee for success.”
The question bubbling away in the background – and presented visually on the wall of the exhibition space, is: When the egg hatches, what will come out? Vanmechelen: “An incubator with transparent eggs is a completely transparent way to welcome the next generation. Anything is possible. But where will the next species to cross come from? Close by or far away? One thing is for sure: fertility always comes from the outside.”